If you think about it, the school setting is one of the most frequently used settings in the animanga medium, particularly in stories aimed at a younger audience.
This is especially true for romance series, where school walls often serve as the backdrop for the love stories of their characters.
However, there are plenty of romantic anime that break away from this trend and offer a refreshing change of setting.
To save you the trouble, we have compiled a list of the best romance anime not set in high school and that you absolutely must add to your watchlist.
Table of Contents
20. Recovery of an MMO Junkie
Recovery of an MMO Junkie is a 2017 anime series consisting of only 10 episodes that blends elements of gaming culture with a psychological and heartfelt storyline.
The series follows Moriko Morioka, a single woman in her 30s who decides to quit her stressful job and becomes a NEET, finding solace in the virtual world of the online game Fruits de Mer.
As she navigates her new life, she hopes to reconnect with a gamer friend from her past. However, her life takes an unexpected turn when she encounters an attractive and popular boy while out shopping who seems to like her.
Recovery of an MMO Junkie delves into deeper themes such as marginalization and social anxiety, all while obviously avoiding the typical school setting.
With its mature characters who are already part of the working world, this series offers a unique perspective on personal growth and finding a balance between reality and the digital realm.
19. Sing Yesterday for Me
Sing Yesterday For Me is a slice-of-life anime with romance and psychology released in 12 episodes in 2020.
The protagonist, Rikuo Uozumi, is a boy without ambition who takes up a simple part-time job after finishing school, with no plans for the future.
It’s here that he meets several acquaintances who open his eyes to the world around him, from his old crush to a peculiar girl named Haru.
If you appreciate romance series that prioritize dramatic and psychological moments over comedy, this series is a worthy addition to your watchlist.
Moreover, Sing Yesterday For Me focus on the transition from adolescence to adulthood and the challenges that come with it providing a captivating narrative that avoids typical school settings.
18. Kamisama Kiss
Kamisama Kiss is a good romance anime from 2012 that skillfully combines elements of romance, fantasy, and supernatural.
The story centers around Nanami Momozono, the main protagonist, whose life takes a dramatic turn when her father disappears, leaving her burdened with a significant amount of debt and without a home.
In a twist of fate, Nanami comes to the aid of a mysterious traveler named Mikage, saving him from a rabid dog.
Grateful for her kindness, Mikage offers her a place to stay, which turns out to be a shrine inhabited by various spirits, including Tomoe, a fox-eared boy who becomes particularly intrigued by Nanami.
Kamisama Kiss is a refreshing anime that breaks away from the typical high school setting and instead immerses viewers in a captivating blend of fantasy and reality.
So, if the premise has piqued your interest and you enjoy the combination of fantasy and romance, this anime should definitely be on your watchlist.
17. Snow White with the Red Hair
Snow White with the Red Hair is a great fantasy romance anime that was released in 2015.
The story follows Shirayuki, a young herbalist living a peaceful life in the kingdom of Tambarun. However, her life takes an unexpected turn when Prince Raji forces her into an unwanted arranged marriage. Determined to escape this fate, Shirayuki flees.
During her escape, she encounters Prince Zen, who welcomes her into his court as a herbalist and offers his assistance in resolving her predicament.
And as they spend more time together, a heartwarming love story unfolds between them.
Snow White with the Red Hair is a romance anime that totally deserves way more recognition, as it combines a captivating fairytale setting with a mature and endearing love story.
And since we are talking about this, predictably there will be no school setting either.
Wotakoi is a great romance anime that takes place in a workplace setting, offering a break from the typical school environment that only counts 11 episodes.
The series follows Narumi Momose, a young woman who is determined to keep her otaku interests a secret at her new job.
However, her plans unravel when she unexpectedly reunites with her old friend Hirotaka Nifuji, who not only shares her otaku hobbies but also knows about them.
As their relationship grows, they make a pact to support each other’s interests and team up in Monster Hunter.
Wotakoi is undoubtedly one of the best romance anime featuring otaku protagonists.
The characters are well-developed, the plot is entertaining, and the love story is excellently portrayed, making it a series that should not be missed,
15. Arakawa Under the Bridge
Arakawa Under the Bridge is a romance anime released in 2010 in 13 episodes with a mature storyline that is quite niche.
The protagonist, Ko Ichinomiya, is a wealthy young man who is rescued from drowning by the enigmatic and captivating Nino, a homeless girl.
In an unexpected turn of events, Nino asks Ko to fall in love with her and take care of her as a way to repay the debt.
Arakawa Under the Bridge goes beyond its apparently comedic atmosphere and delves into deep themes such as depression and the challenges of life, particularly through the character of Nino.
This anime also presents some well-developed characters whose growth and transformation can be witnessed as their relationship progresses.
And with its focus on mature characters, the school setting becomes only a distant memory.
14. Plastic Memories
Plastic Memories is a good romance anime from 2015 that combines a tender and tragic love story with a captivating Sci-Fi setting, offering a refreshing departure from the typical school settings.
Taking place in a future where lifelike androids are integrated into society, the narrative centers around the protagonist and his partner, Isla, as they face the emotionally demanding task of decommissioning other androids.
But as they delve deeper into their work, they’ll grapple with ethical dilemmas stemming from the androids’ genuine emotions and the unsettling practice of erasing their memories.
If you are seeking a remarkable romance series that evokes heartfelt moments and explores thought-provoking themes within its intriguing futuristic world, Plastic Memories is an absolute must-watch.
13. Emma: A Victorian Romance
Emma: A Victorian Romance is one of the best historical romance anime, released in 2002 in 12 episodes.
The story is set in London in the late 18th century, and the protagonist is Emma, a young maid who works at Mrs. Stowner’s household.
William Jones, on the other hand, is a former pupil of Mrs. Stowner, and during a visit to his old teacher, William meets Emma and falls madly in love with her.
This is the beginning of their love story that will enrapture you.
Emma: A Victorian Romance offers a compelling and mature love story set against the backdrop of a captivating Victorian England.
So if you are in the mood for a romance anime with these characteristics without having to worry about any school setting, give it a shot.
12. The Ancient Magus’ Bride
The Ancient Magus’ Bride is a popular anime that was recently released and consists of 24 episodes that seamlessly combines a heartfelt plot with a fantasy setting, allowing viewers to escape the typical school setting.
The story follows Chise Hatori, a young girl who tragically loses her family and finds herself being sold at an auction.
However, instead of a life of servitude, she is purchased by a mysterious man with a canine skull for a head. This man takes her under his wing and trains her to become a magician, offering her a chance to escape her tragic fate.
The Ancient Magus’ Bride is an exceptional romance anime that we highly recommend to discover.
Its love story is tenderly portrayed and masterfully written, while the captivating fantasy setting will leave a lasting impression. If you haven’t watched it yet be sure to give it a chance.
11. Rurouni Kenshin
Rurouni Kenshin is undoubtedly one of the milestones of samurai-themed anime. It consists of a 95-episode anime adaptation based on the manga of the same name by Nobuhiro Watsuki.
Follow the journey of legendary warrior Kenshin Himura as he seeks to protect people from injustice and atone for his violent past actions.
Along the way, he meets his one true love interest, Kaoru Kamiya, and together they embark on thrilling adventures filled with love and conflict.
Rurouni Kenshin is one of the best vintage anime you can come across.
It presents a tale brimming with honor, action and life-or-death battles, all within the captivating backdrop of feudal Japan, with the inclusion of well-crafted romantic subplots that complement the story perfectly.
10. Welcome to the N.H.K.
Welcome to the N.H.K. is a deep anime that, although it can still be considered quite niche, has finally recently slowly gained the popularity it deserves.
Satou Tatsuhiro is a 22-year-old hikikomori who has completely withdrawn from society due to past traumas. He remains confined to his apartment, experiencing anxiety and paranoia at the mere thought of venturing outside.
However, his life takes a surprising turn when he encounters Misaki, a mysterious girl who claims she can help him.
The message is clear: with the right support at the right time, no obstacle is insurmountable.
Welcome to the N.H.K. is an anime that puts together deep and thought-provoking themes with a notable comedic atmosphere.
But what makes it even more intriguing is its unique setting, primarily taking place within Satou’s home.
This choice of setting contributes to the overall atmosphere and effectively complements the story being told.
Planetes is a niche animation gem, released in 2003 in 24 episodes.
It’s 2075, and humanity has colonized space. In this setting, we find Ai Tanabe, a bold young girl who joins the Technora Corporation as a member of the debris section.
Here she will make the acquaintance of her peculiar colleagues, with whom she will develop a fantastic relationship while she will find love too.
Planetes is a fantastic slice of life and a unique anime, with a spectacular setting and animations and an excellent cast of characters.
Trust us and give it a chance, ’cause it’s really time to give it the deserved recognition.
And clearly, being entirely set in space, the school setting isn’t even remotely contemplated in this series.
8. Nodame Cantabile
Nodame Cantabile is a great rom-com along with some good psychological traits released in 2007 in 23 episodes.
The story follows Shinichi Chiaki, a gifted pianist who spent his childhood in Europe but had to return to Japan due to his parents’ divorce. Shinichi harbors a dream of returning to Europe to pursue his musical aspirations, but he has a paralyzing fear of flying.
But his life takes a turn when he encounters Megumi Noda, a fellow pianist with a carefree and easygoing personality.
Their meeting sets off a series of events that will forever change their lives.
Nodame Cantabile is an underrated but excellent romance anime that skillfully balances its light and comedic atmosphere with a deeper message about the healing power of love and grown-up characters.
If you appreciate well-crafted trauma-solving love stories, we highly recommend not overlooking this series.
7. Clannad: After Story
Clannad is undeniably one of the most renowned and emotionally impactful anime, and indeed we consider it as one of the best romance anime with a sad ending.
This second part of the story of Clannad, and follows the main characters, Tomoya and Nagisa, as they navigate their adult lives as a couple after graduating from school.
Clearly, it’s important to watch Clannad before delving into Clannad: After Story, as the latter serves as a direct sequel and continuation of the events portrayed in the first series.
So if you are seeking an exceptional romance anime that can evoke a range of emotions, including shedding a few tears, this is among the best choices you can make.
6. Super Dimension Fortress Macross
Super Dimension Fortress Macross is undoubtedly one of the most innovative and creative anime of all time, released in the early 1980s.
The story begins when a massive alien ship crashes on Earth. Fearing an impending alien invasion, humanity quickly dismantles the ship to construct the formidable spacecraft called Macross as a defensive measure.
However, their fears are confirmed when the alien race known as Zentradi attacks Earth on the day of Macross’ unveiling, leading to an intense and thrilling space battle.
But don’t be fooled by the premise, this anime is way beyond the typical action/mecha series. Romance takes center stage, particularly the iconic love triangle involving pilot Hikaru Ichijo, Macross officer Misa Hayase, and idol singer Lynn Minmay, who plays a significant role in the war effort.
The combination of romance, music, Sci-Fi, and mecha in Super Dimension Fortress Macross creates a unique and captivating blend. And the best part is, it doesn’t rely on a school setting, so don’t even worry about it.
Nana is an anime based on an iconic shojo manga that simply made history in the medium, with an anime adaptation released in 47 episodes in 2006.
The story revolves around two girls named Nana, who have completely different personalities.
They end up sharing an apartment, with one of them being a rock/punk star dealing with a troubled life, while the other is a shy girl trapped in a toxic relationship that’s destroying her.
From that point on, their destinies become deeply intertwined.
Nana is an exceptional work that stands out with its stunning character designs that are reminiscent of the rock/punk stars of the 2000s.
And being a mature story with some mature and well-written characters, the school setting is not even contemplated and instead, it would be out of context.
4. Into the Forest of Fireflies’ Light
Into the Forest of Fireflies’ Light is a medium-length movie that was released in 2011. It’s only 45 minutes long, which is like watching two episodes of an anime, but it manages to offer a fantastic and emotional story.
The story follows Hotaro, a little girl who gets lost in the woods behind her grandfather’s house. There she meets Gin, a humanoid spirit who is cursed and would disappear if touched by a human.
Despite this seemingly insurmountable limitation, the two manage to form a beautiful relationship of mutual love. But, as with all things in life, the inevitable can’t be postponed forever.
Into the Forest of Fireflies’ Light presents a deeply emotional and poignant story within a fantastic natural setting infused with supernatural elements.
If you haven’t had the opportunity to experience this hidden gem of animation, you are truly missing out on remarkable work, trust us.
3. The Wind Rises
The Wind Rises, released in 2013, is a masterpiece from Studio Ghibli and probably one of the best romance movies ever made, if not the best.
It’s also one of the best romance anime available on HBO Max, so you can watch it without any issues if you’re subscribed to the service.
The movie tells the story of Jiro Horikoshi, a young boy with a deep passion for flying warplanes. Despite his severe nearsightedness preventing him from becoming a pilot, he discovers that his true purpose in life lies in designing and building airplanes.
Inspired by his idol, Giovanni Battista Caproni, Jiro embarks on a journey of pursuing his dreams.
Throughout the movie, you’ll see Jiro’s ups and downs as he achieves his dreams and faces great joys, but also bitter disappointments, while he also discovers love with his beloved companion Naoko Satomi.
The Wind Rises is a timeless tale that explores themes of pursuing one’s dreams and finding love, that will leave you both inspired and heartbroken.
All of this without the slightest hint of a school setting, giving the plot another point in maturity and depth.
2. Spice and Wolf
Spice and Wolf is one of the most underrated romance anime, that deserves way more recognition than it has received. It was released in 2008 with just 13 episodes based on a hit light novel.
The narrative revolves around Lawrence, a merchant who finds himself in the village of Pasroe during the harvest festival.
It is on this eventful night that he encounters Holo, the wise and enchanting wolf goddess, who seeks his aid in returning to her homeland.
Thus begins their extraordinary love story that transcends boundaries of race and lineage.
What makes Spice and Wolf stand out is its incredible world-building and its great love story. It manages to create an innovative fantasy world based on commerce, in a genre that has already explored many, if not all, possibilities.
So there’s just no way you can’t miss it.
1. Maison Ikkoku
Maison Ikkoku is a 96-episode series adapted from Rumiko Takahashi’s legendary seinen manga that is simply an icon of the 80’s romance genre.
The story revolves around Yusaku Godai, a young man who is dedicatedly preparing for his college entrance exams. Yusaku resides in Maison Ikkoku, a bustling boarding house where distractions make it challenging for him to concentrate on his studies.
Initially planning to leave, Yusaku’s decision takes a turn when Kyoko Otonashi, the new building manager, arrives, and he instantly falls in love with her and decides to stay.
Maison Ikkoku presents a mature and psychologically engaging plot that remains unique and innovative even after nearly 30 years since its release.
And one of its main strengths, if not the main strength, lies in its mature and adult characters, completely devoiding any school setting.